"So then it should be fairly easy for you to tell me when, or perhaps where, he said it."
"Well, it's in his budget."
"Do you mean the most recently passed budget," I asked, "the one that calls for spending something like two-and-a-half trillion dollars?"
"If the budget calls for that much in spending, where do you suppose the government gets the money?"
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"Well, you say the president says 'people ought not pay taxes.' If people don't pay taxes, how does the government get the two-and-a-half trillion?"
"Oh," she said, "I see what you're saying. Let me clarify. Bush says, 'Rich people should not pay taxes.'"
"Oh, really? And when did he say that?"
"Well, he implies it -- he's always seeking to cut taxes on the rich."
"Well," I responded, "as a member of the so-called rich, I welcome you to take a look at my 1040. I pay a substantial amount in taxes. And if there's some program or provision that allows 'the rich' to avoid taxes, perhaps I should consider firing my accountant." At this, the others at the table laughed, but not, of course, my debating opponent.
"Well, it's obvious," she said. "We see things differently."
"We most certainly do, and I think it's pretty much fruitless for us to continue the conversation. But, if you don't mind, I have a brief question for you."
"OK," she said.
"Of the top 1 percent of taxpayers, what percentage do they pay of federal income tax revenues?"
"What do you mean?"
"Assume this is a pie," I said, cupping my hands in a circle. "The top 1 percent contributes what size slice -- by percentage -- of that pie?"
"Oh, I see," she said. "Virtually nothing."
"Maybe 1 percent, maybe 2 percent."
Later, during the party, several people told her that I hosted a nationally syndicated radio show, and informed her of my "conservative" politics.
"I'm sorry," she said. "I didn't mean to anger you."
"No, I wasn't angry. I was disappointed that someone could go through the world so incredibly ill-informed."
She walked away.
For the record, since my table companion doesn't know or doesn't care, the top 1 percent -- the taxpayers with an adjusted gross income (AGI) over $295,495 -- paid, for 2003, 34.27 percent of federal income tax revenues. The top 10 percent (with an AGI over $94,891) paid 65.84 percent, the top half (AGI over $29,019) paid 96.54 percent. The bottom half? They paid 3.46 percent.
People should know this. Even if you live in Seattle.